Previewing the defensive ends

With the loss of ACC Defensive Player of the Year Da'Quan Bowers, the spotlight will surely shine bright on Clemson's defensive ends this spring.

Da'Quan Bowers - When he's a top-five pick in this April's NFL Draft, Bowers will be less than a year removed from the bust debate as all doubt was erased with a stellar junior season. Bowers was a finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and the Nagurski Awards and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

The Bamberg, S.C. native finished with 150 tackles and 19 sacks during his three-year Clemson career. As a junior, he recorded 16 sacks, one sack short of setting the school's single season record.

Andre Branch (RS Sr.) - As a junior last season, Branch was in on 55 tackles, 7.5 going for loss. His five sacks are tops among all returning Tigers. Branch also leads all returning defensive linemen in snaps played in 2010 (651).

Malliciah Goodman (Jr.) - In 343 snaps as a sophomore, Goodman had 32 tackles and three tackles for loss.

Kourtnei Brown (RS Sr.) - Brown had 17 tackles and two tackles for loss over 212 snaps last season.

Tavaris Barnes (RS Fr.) - As a senior at First Coast High School (Jacksonville, Fla.), Barnes had 80 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

Corey Crawford (Fr.) - He had four sacks in two games against Fork Union and also had an interception and a touchdown off a blocked punt while at Hargrave Military Academy last fall.

Joe Gore (Fr.) - The early enrolled freshman had 77 tackles, 12 sacks, 24 tackles for loss and nine blocked kicks as a senior at East Columbus High School (Lake Waccamaw, N.C.).

Chris Richardson (RS Sr.) - The walk-on played 50 snaps last season.

A pair of serviceable starters will help fill the void left behind by Bowers. Branch and Goodman are expected to start at the bandit and defensive ends, respectively.

It's not just play on the field that they'll have to make up for. Bowers was also one of the team's most respected leaders last season. One or both could be relied upon as team leaders but each has a ways to go before that's the case.

There's a small amount of returning experience behind Branch and Goodman. Though Brown could be a nice third option, he's yet to have a season that lives up to the four-star status he entered Clemson with in 2008. After redshirting in 2009, Brown spent last season as Branch's backup at the bandit position.

Barnes turned heads with his play on the scout team defense throughout the 2010 season. Had he been needed, Barnes could have stepped in and played as a freshman. Now, he's poised to breakout in 2011. And it may not be only at defensive end. Barnes has enough of a frame to add size and move inside to tackle.

After spending last fall at Hargrave, Crawford is ready to make a run as the backup at the bandit position. If he's able to win the spot over Brown, Crawford could be pushing Branch for first-team snaps by the time preseason camp rolls around.

On Mar. 4, new defensive ends coach Marion Hobby gets his first crack at round two with Clemson.

1. Who's next, now that Bowers has moved on to the NFL?

2. After patiently waiting his turn, Goodman finally gets a shot as a starter - how big of a disruptive force can he be?

3. The freshmen: Crawford, Barnes and Gore- who contributes from this bunch?

4. Hobby's back at Clemson - how does he impact the ends given his extensive background coaching defensive linemen?

Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes, the freshmen defensive ends, will secure the backup spots at the bandit and defensive ends before the spring is over.

Bandit end
1. Andre Branch
2. Corey Crawford

Defensive end
1. Malliciah Goodman
2. Tavaris Barnes Top Stories